Skip to comments.THE CONNECTION BETWEEN CONTRACEPTION AND ABORTION
Posted on 12/13/2001 10:02:59 AM PST by Brian Kopp DPM
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN
CONTRACEPTION AND ABORTION
by Professor Janet E. Smith, PhD
Janet E. Smith is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Dallas, Texas. She has edited Why Humane Vitae Was Right: A Reader and authored Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later, and numerous articles on abortion, contraception, virtue, and Plato. This article was edited and reprinted with permission.
Many in the pro-life movement are reluctant to make a connection between contraception and abortion. They insist that these are two very different acts - that there is all the difference in the world between contraception, which prevents a life from coming to be, and abortion, which takes a life that has already begun.
With some contraceptives, there is not only a link with abortion, there is an identity. Some contraceptives are abortifacients; they work by causing early term abortions. The IUD seems to prevent a fertilized egg - a new little human being - from implanting in the uterine wall. The pill does not always stop ovulation, but sometimes prevents implantation of the growing embryo. And of course, the new RU 486 pill works altogether by aborting a new fetus, a new baby. Although some in the pro-life movement occasionally speak out against the contraceptives that are abortifacients, most generally steer clear of the issue of contraception.
Contraception creates alleged need for abortion
This seems to me to be a mistake. I think that we will not make good progress in creating a society where all new life can be safe, where we truly display a respect for life, where abortion is a terrible memory rather than a terrible reality, until we see that there are many significant links between contraception and abortion, and that we bravely speak this truth. We need to realize that a society in which contraceptives are widely used is going to have a very difficult time keeping free of abortions since the lifestyles and attitudes that contraception fosters, create an alleged need for abortion.
Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the US Supreme Court decision that confirmed Roe v. Wade [U.S. decision to permit abortions] stated in some critical respects, abortion is of the same character as the decision to use contraception for two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.
The Supreme Court decision has made completely unnecessary, any efforts to expose what is really behind the attachment of the modern age to abortion. As the Supreme Court candidly states, we need abortion so that we can continue our contraceptive lifestyles. It is not because contraceptives are ineffective that a million and a half women a year seek abortions as back-ups to failed contraceptives. The intimate relationships facilitated by contraceptives are what make abortions necessary. Intimate here is a euphemism and a misleading one at that. Here the word intimate means sexual; it does not mean loving and close. Abortion is most often the result of sexual relationships in which there is no room for a baby, the natural consequence of sexual intercourse.
To support the argument that more responsible use of contraceptives would reduce the number of abortions, some note that most abortions are performed for contraceptive purposes. That is, few abortions are had because a woman has been a victim of rape or incest or because a pregnancy would endanger her life, or because she expects to have a handicapped or deformed newborn. Rather, most abortions are had because men and women who do not want a baby are having sexual intercourse and facing pregnancies they did not plan for and do not want. Because their contraceptive failed, or because they failed to use a contraceptive, they then resort to abortion as a back up. Many believe that if we could convince men and women to use contraceptives responsibly, we would reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, and thus the number of abortions. Thirty years ago this position might have had some plausibility, but not now. We have lived for about thirty years with a culture permeated with contraceptive use and abortion; no longer can we think that greater access to contraception will reduce the number of abortions. Rather, wherever contraception is more readily available, the number of unwanted pregnancies and the number of abortions increase greatly.
Sexual revolution not possible without contraception
The connection between contraception and abortion is primarily this: contraception facilitates the kind of relationships and even the kind of attitudes and moral characters that are likely to lead to abortion. The contraceptive mentality treats sexual relationship as a burden. The sexual revolution has no fondness - no room for - the connection between sexual intercourse and babies. The sexual revolution simply was not possibly until fairly reliable contraceptives were available.
Far from being a check to the sexual revolution, contraception is the fuel that facilitated the beginning of the sexual revolution and enables it to continue to rage. In the past, many men and women refrained from illicit sexual unions simply because they were not prepared for the responsibilities of parenthood. But once a fairly reliable contraceptive appeared on the scene, this barrier to sex outside the confines of marriage fell. The connection between sex and love also fell quickly; ever since contraception became widely used, there has been much talk of, acceptance of, and practice of casual sex and recreational sex. The deep meaning that is inherent in sexual intercourse has been lost sight of; the willingness to engage in sexual intercourse with another is no longer a result of a deep commitment to another. It no longer bespeaks a willingness to have a child with another and to have all the consequent entanglements with another that babies bring. Contraception helps reduce ones sexual partner to just a sexual object since it renders sexual intercourse to be without any real commitments.
Carelessness is international
Much of this data suggests that there is something deep in our natures that finds the severing of sexual intercourse from love and commitment and babies to be unsatisfactory. As we have seen, women are careless in their use of contraceptives for a variety of reasons, but one reason for their careless use of contraceptives is precisely their desire to engage in meaningful sexual activity rather than in meaningless sexual activity. They want their sexual acts to be more meaningful than a handshake or a meal shared. They are profoundly uncomfortable with using contraceptives for what they do to their bodies and for what they do to their relationships. Often, they desire to have a more committed relationship with the male with whom they are involved; they get pregnant to test this love and commitment. But since the relationship has not been made permanent, since no vows have been taken, they are profoundly ambivalent about any pregnancy that might occur.
Sexual Promiscuity Increases
By the late sixties and early seventies, the view of the human person as an animal, whose passions should govern, became firmly entrenched in the attitudes of those who were promoting the sexual revolution. One of the greatest agents and promoters of the sexual revolution has been Planned Parenthood. In the sixties and seventies, many of the spokesmen and women for Planned Parenthood unashamedly advocated sex outside of marriage and even promoted promiscuity. Young people were told to abandon the repressive morals of their parents and to engage in free love. They were told that active sexual lives with a number of partners would be psychologically healthy, perfectly normal, and perfectly moral. Now, largely because of the spread of AIDS and the devastation of teenage pregnancy, even Planned Parenthood puts a value on abstinence. Yet they have no confidence that young people can and will abstain from sexual intercourse, so they advocate safe sex, responsible sex, whereby they mean sexual intercourse wherein a contraceptive is used. Sex educators assume that young people will be engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage.
Young people do not need sex education of the Planned Parenthood type; they need to learn that sexual intercourse can be engaged in responsibly and safely only within marriage. Rather than filling young peoples heads with false notions about freedom, and filling their wallets with condoms, we need to help them see the true meaning of human sexuality. We need to help them learn self-control and self-mastery so that they are not enslaved to their sexual passions. They need to learn that sexual intercourse belongs within marriage, and that with the commitment to marriage comes true freedom; the freedom to give of ones self completely to another, the freedom to meet ones responsibilities to ones children.
There are two cornerstones on which education for sexual responsibility should be built - cornerstones that are both corroded by contraceptive sex. One cornerstone is that sexual intercourse is meant to be the expression of a deep love for another individual, a deep love that leads one to want to give of oneself totally to another. Most individuals hope one day to be in a faithful marriage, to be in a marital relationship with someone one loves deeply and by whom one is loved deeply. One of the major components of that deep love is a promise of faithfulness, that one will give oneself sexually only to ones spouse.
Contraception severs connection between sex and babies
The other cornerstone for a sex education program should be the refrain that if you are not ready for babies, you are not ready for sexual intercourse, and you are not ready for babies until you are married. Most people want to be good parents; they want to provide for their children and give them good upbringings. Contraception attempts to sever the connection between sexual intercourse and babies; it makes us feel responsible about our sexuality while enabling us to be irresponsible. Individuals born out of wedlock have a much harder start in life; have a much harder time gaining the discipline and strength they need to be responsible adults. Single mothers have very hard lives as they struggle to meet the needs of their children and their own emotional needs as well. Those who abort their babies are often left with devastating psychological scars. The price of out of wedlock pregnancy is high.
Indeed, even within marriage, contraception is destructive; it reduces the meaning of the sexual act; again it takes out the great commitment that is written into the sexual act, the commitment that is inherent in the openness to have children with ones beloved.
Those who are unmarried do face a disaster, and abortion seems like a necessity since no permanent commitment has been made between the sexual partners. Those who are married have often planned a life that is not receptive to children and are tempted to abort to sustain the child-free life they have designed. I am not, of course, saying that all those who contracept are likely to abort; I am saying that many more of those who contracept do abort than those who practice natural family planning.
Contraception takes the baby-making element out of sexual intercourse. It makes pregnancy seem like an accident of sexual intercourse rather than the natural consequence that responsible individuals ought to be prepared for. Abortion, then, becomes thinkable as the solution to an unwanted pregnancy. Contraception enables those who are not prepared to care for babies to engage in sexual intercourse; when they become pregnant, they resent the unborn child for intruding itself upon their lives, and they turn to the solution of abortion. It should be no surprise that countries that are permeated by contraceptive sex, fight harder for access to abortion than they do to ensure that all babies can survive both in the womb and out. It is foolish for pro-lifers to think that they can avoid the issues of contraception and sexual irresponsibility and be successful in the fight against abortion. For, as the Supreme Court of the US has stated, abortion is necessary for those whose intimate relationships are based upon contraceptive sex.
For verification of the claims here made about Planned Parenthood, see George Grant, Grand Illusions: the Legacy of Planned Parenthood (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth and Hyatt Publishers, Inc., 1988), and Robert Marshall and Charles Donovan, Blessed are the Barren (San Francisco, CA; Ignatius Press, 1991).
Portions of this article are printed as portions of chapters in Abortion and Moral Character, in Catholicism and Abortion, ed. By Stephen J. Heaney to be published by the Pope John XXIII Medical-Moral Research Centre and Abortion and Moral Character, in Doing and Being: Introductory Reading in Moral Philosophy, ed by Jordan Graf Haber, to be published by Macmillan.
Permission given for reprinting portions from The Connection between contraception and Abortion, by Dr. Janet E. smith, published by Homiletic & Pastoral Review, April 1993, distributed by One More Soul.
"The Connection between Contraception and Abortion" by Janet E. Smith is available from One More Soul.
It seems to me the only debate left is whether the protestant capitulation to the contraception agenda, from 1930 to 1960, was "wisdom" or imprudence, an acceptance of "change" or the agent of change.
The legacy of widespread acceptance of the contraceptive mentality--sexual promiscuity, STD's, increased divorce, abortion--is already quite apparent.
Prior to 1930, contraception use was not widespread. In fact, it was quite rare, because it was considered a sin commensurate with adultery and homosexuality by the protestant forebears of this country.
The development of simple and highly-effective contraceptive methods is one of the all-time great medical/technological advances of human civilization. In the past women were always at the mercy of chance whenever they engaged in sexual intercourse, never knowing whether it would result in pregnancy and even possible death during childbirth. Especially given the prevalent attitudes of paternalistic societies (frequent arranged or forced marriages, no right to refuse intercourse with one's husband, etc.), most women had no control over how many children they would bear or when they would bear them. Now for the first time in all of human history, the female half of the human race is free of that biological straightjacket. Finally each woman is able to reliably plan her future and make her life choices as she sees fit, instead of being trapped in the often-unwanted role of a baby factory.
I often think how fortunate my daughter is to have grown up in this country and in this era of tremendous progress.
When I was a freshman at my Catholic High School I remember the Religion teacher trying to explain why the Church was against contraception. She said that, "Removing the possibility of pregnancy changes the designed nature of the sexual act and therefore interferes with G-d's plan." We all laughed at her becuase we didn't understand her point. She held firm. Time went by.
In 1990 I came to understand her point. I was listening to "Morning Edition" on NPR. They were doing a week-long series called "30 Years with The Pill." On one of those shows Bob Edwards pointed out that what The Pill had done, as no other method of birth control before it, was remove contraception from the sex act. You didn't have to be planning to have sex, and you didn't have to interrupt a passionate moment to go put on a barrier. The woman simply took a pill every morning whether she thought she might have sex or not. Contraception had been dis-connected from sex.
That Religion Teacher's point from nearly 20 years earlier hit me between the eyes so hard I almost went off the road. Just as contraception had been dis-connected from sex, so had conception. People no longer associated conception with sex. That's why people could tell you that the reason we have more unwanted pregnancies is because we don't have access to condoms or we don't have access to abortions or any reason at all except that people are having sex when they aren't ready to be parents. Obviously if you ask people where babies come from, they will tell you that it comes from heterosexual sex. But when you talk about abortions or unwed mothers or whatever, asking people to take responsibility for their sexual activity is never put on the table.
Like it or not, contraception impacts our fundamental understanding of our sexuality. And once you've made such a fundamental change, the law of unintended consequences takes its toll.
And, for the record, I'm a Protestant Christian.
Now, for the first time in all of human history, the male half of the human race is free to use women as the sexual toys that they were intended to be without having to be concerned with stupid romantic entanglements or silly child support. And, to cap it all off, we've convinced those airheaded females that we did this for their liberation.
Don't worry, no offense taken. No, I am not now (pun intended) nor have I ever been a member (I don't think they encourage men to join anyway). And to the best of my recollection I have never read a PP or NOW brochure.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.